ASOC reconsiders budget in wake of minimum wage hike

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Students will soon feel the impacts of the recent increase in California’s minimum wage. To account for this state-wide wage increase, the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) may have to reduce financial support to student services or increase student body fees for the 2014-15 school year.

The state-wide minimum wage increase to $9 per hour, which comes into effect in July, provides a heightened standard for comparison that will most likely result in raises across pay grades. Many Occidental student workers will see their wages go up, but may concurrently face a drop in their hours due to the limited number of funds available for distribution.

“Oftentimes, people don’t realize wages don’t matter as much as pay periods,” ASOC Vice President for Financial Affairs and economics major Sid Saravat (junior) said. “The minimum wage may increase to $9, but services may just instead cut back an hour here or there to make up the differences. Some services are already paying above minimum wage, so it’s not that huge of an increase, but it is still substantial.”

Although student workers may be happy with an increased hourly rate, the wage increase could prevent school services from operating at the same capacity as previous years.

“Maybe a student service is unable to put on an event because they can’t hire enough staffers [because of the wage increase],” Saravat said. “It’s unfortunate, but we try our best with the budget we have.”

According to Saravat, every student is charged $288 in student body fees per year, which, combined with revenue from student services, makes up the ASOC budget. To determine the distribution of funds, each student service brings the senate an anticipated budget, and from there the senate decides either to grant the requested funds or designate a different amount. Throughout the year, individual student organizations can also submit funding requests based on their specific programming needs.

The senate has the option to offset the wage increases by raising student body fees, but it will first audit last year’s funds to determine whether this academic year’s budget was used efficiently.

While next year’s budget is still undetermined, newly-elected Vice President for Financial Affairs and economics major Will Huang (sophomore) is aware of the potential dilemma the wage increases pose. However, Huang is committed to making sure it is not the students who suffer from the state-wide policy change.

“Going into the next academic year, my focus will be on student jobs — not only on their creation and retention, but also on their levels of compensation,” Huang said via email. “The minimum wage increase is a formidable challenge we will face, but I pledge to find creative solutions that minimize the increase’s impact on our student body fees.”